Acclaimed guitarist John Mayer recently posted his latest Charvel Custom Shop guitar to Instagram and it is incredible. The Charvel San Dimas® model is based on an old Powell Peralta “McGill” skateboard deck that Mayer owned in the late ‘80s. Combining both California skate and metal cultures that inspired him while growing up, Mayer’s axe evokes the look and style of a worn out board.
“This guitar has been a dream of mine for a decade,” said Mayer.
With artwork hand-painted by guitar-art legend Dan Lawrence, the relic’d beast uses EVH Wolfgang humbucking pickups and features blue speed knobs styled after urethane skateboard wheels.
This one-of-a-kind guitar is definitely a site to be seen. Catch John Mayer and the custom axe on tour as he travels around the world with Dead & Company. CLICK HERE for tour dates.
A post shared by johnmayer (@johnmayer) on Oct 27, 2017 at 11:52pm PDT
A call from a local middle-school orchestra teacher. "One of my students broke the scroll off a viola, and I need it repaired. It's borrowed from another school!" So, here it is. Not just the scroll, but the entire pegbox. A really bad break. Financially not worth repairing. It is, at first glance, an older 15" student viola, which has put in plenty of years work. Just replace it.
"Can't do that. It's borrowed. I can't say her viola is broken."
It will cost _________.
Pause. "I don't have that much money in my budget."
So here it is. I'm trying to figure something to do, and I think I have. Not charging enough. Hoping the work also serves as pennance for some sin, past or future.
But the back --
It just amazed me. It has long been proven beyond any reasonable doubt that it is impossible to photograph varnish. Photos, even video, can not catch the reflections as you or the instrument move through the light. Even with a camera as nice as a cell-phone. But here are some photos.
A one-piece back, with great clarity and motion. It could be as simple as amber shellac and clear spirit varnish. The wood, underneath, is aging to something of a grey-green. It's a great combination.
So, even if I don't gain any pennance from it, at least this one may have a chance to make music again.
And I have a new conceptual model for varnish color.
Aloha! Years ago, I was on the search for an easy jazz standard to learn. I had tried and failed at so many before and it was always a frustrating experience. But then I found a transcription of “It’s Only A Paper Moon” (which is my wife’s favorite song, so I was familiar with the tune) and it was broken down two different ways: There was a single-note transcription for beginners and then there was the chord melody version.
I learned the single-note version first (obviously) and then, as I became more comfortable with the song, started to incorporate the chords into the song. Sometimes it was difficult and I backed off, but after a while I had it nailed (but kept the single-note run for the bridge to give it more of a guitar solo feel). Because I knew the single-note version, I never became too frustrated when I was learning the chords because I could always revert to the single notes. The song would stay the same and it didn’t have the catastrophic crumbling that a song would normally have when you don’t know the next chord and that turned out to be a huge inspiration.
I wish all instruction was like this.
And then I found Jazz Guitar Christmas by George Ports from Hal Leonard. It breaks down thirteen Christmas songs (a favorite genre of mine) into two versions: easy and harder. It’s not single-note transcriptions, but it also isn’t very difficult. Even the graduated version doesn’t veer too far into the impossible and the harder one is built on top of the easy transcription meaning that you’re still going to hit those same notes as before, but they’re incorporated into bigger chords or there are some more notes between them.
Honestly, I could see how some people would think that there is some wasted potential here because two version of thirteen songs could easily be twenty-six songs, but I think this is a solid way to learn new material. You make it as easy as you can to get the student into the tune and practicing it for fun, and then you build on top of that with more difficult material, but now they have a safety net when they play.
In the education world, it’s called known-to-unknown and it basically means that if you saw the end goal (the more difficult version of the song) and there wasn’t a clear path to that end, the student would be intimidated and psych themselves out or lock up. But if you took what they knew (basic guitar skills) and taught them the easy version of the song, they would know the melody, tempo, and feel and the end wouldn’t be nearly as daunting.
The book costs only $9.95 and it’s worth it not only because it’s a great collection of Christmas songs that, once learned, you’ll be able to impress friends and family alike on a quiet night by the fire as snow slowly falls outside the window, but because it serves as an excellent example of an instruction technique that is just getting a toe-hold in education systems. That alone makes it worth it to me, but yeah, learning Christmas songs and sounding good is also pretty cool. And come on! It’s ten bucks! Just buy it and see what I mean.
Aloha! Before I moved to Hawaii, I knew I was going to be buying an ukulele for me at least, but was trying to get the kids interested in it as well. I found a video of an amazing player tackling Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off,” and my daughter, a huge Swift fan, was intrigued.
I was more interested in the player, though. Andrew Molina is amazing. He’s got that infuriating combination of making music that sounds very difficult to play while looking like it’s the easiest thing in the world for him. That combination makes you feel a mix of inspiration and hopelessness.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve seen more of Molina’s videos and my favorite to date is “Surfing Jaws.”
It’s got that same combination of skill and an easy look, but melody is so solid and unrelenting that you could hum the whole thing. While there’s a ton of virtuosity on display, the song never takes a back seat to the melody and that’s why it’s so strong. In short, it’s the perfect instrumental. I love it.
So, as a fan of Molina’s, I was pleased to see a string set from GFS curated by Molina. I asked for a review set and, when they arrived, strung up one of my tenors and had some impressions.
The first was that they don’t magically make you better. That being said, there are some attributes to them that, over time, will make it easier to get better.
The first is that they’re made slightly thinner than average strings, but with greater tension. The result is a strong, punchy tone that doesn’t sound muffled or boomy like some ukulele strings do.
The second is that, with that added tension, there’s a little more force involved with fretting them (and a slightly better chance of making notes go sharp) but that’s okay because added tension reduces the amount of distance a string will travel when plucked/strummed/picked. The result of this is a lower likelihood of the string hitting the frets above your fretted note and creating a buzz. Because of this, you can lower the action on your uke and use less force to press down on the strings.
So, basically, you would only have to exert slightly more effort if you kept the action on your ukulele high, which is no longer a necessity.
Additionally, with the greater tension and less string travel, the strings snap back to where they should be faster and it doesn’t take long at all to appreciate that fact as your fingers know exactly where to go to pick the next note. This is hugely beneficial when tremolo-picking in particular.
With strings that go back to where they should faster, and the lower travel space/time giving you the opportunity to lower your ukulele action and make playing easier, it’s easy to see that, while they won’t magically make you a better player, they’ll give you some added features that will make playing a little easier, which will only benefit you in the long run.
I think this string set is a good investment in experimentation. I say buy a set, throw them on your ukulele and see what I mean. You don’t need to adjust your action or anything to get a feel and appreciate them for their tone and playing potential.
French rockers Rise of the Northstar have announced that they are currently underway recording the follow-up to their debut record Welcame. For the new effort, the crew even flew to Silver Cord Studio in New York to work with fellow Frenchman and Charvel signature artist Joe Duplantier from Gojira.
Everyone involved sounds fired up with the collaboration.
“If touring in Japan was always our goal, making an album in New York, one of the most influential cities in the world, with Joe Duplantier producing, is one big challenge,” said Rise of the Northstar. “We’re here to enhance our blend of metal and rap and to take it to the next level.”
Duplantier also shared his thoughts on working with the up-and-coming thrashers.
“I’m excited to contribute to this album — Rise of the Northstar is badass,” Duplantier said. “Their approach of music is so direct, and they drive their career the same way. Definitely a great experience for me.”
Stay connected with what ROTN is doing by following them on Facebook HERE.